Berra — My People I
1627, Fire Season, Death Week
Fire Season Death Week Clayday. Berra is out of money, but wants to visit some old friends and kinfolk without being ashamed. [[[s02:session-42|Session 42]]]
Despite all festivities being over, Berra comes by the house each morning. One morning she took away a Xenofos. Now, early in the morning, she asks if Varanis is free. It is Clayday of Death Week.
Varanis, still flushed from her morning ritual, is at the gate within moments. She’s in full armour, barring her helmet. Her sword is sheathed at her side. “Berra! Good morning. I wasn’t planning to go to Temple today.”
Berra is gleaming, all her bronze polished. Under it, she has her best blue clothes. “Hi. Um. Can I ask a favour?”
“Uh, can I borrow ten Lunars? And would you like to meet the people I used to stay with?” She looks impressively nervous, for someone who can kill a walktapus.
Varanis gives her a broad smile. “Yes, I’d love to meet them. And my resources are ever at your disposal. I’ll need to go get my pouch and wash my face. Give me a few minutes? Do you want to come in?”
“I’ll stay out here. There’s shade by the wall.” Still nervous. This was not about the money.
Varanis looks at Berra for a moment, then says, “I’ll be quick.” She dashes into the palazzo, startling a servant who was just exiting the building.
Berra checks her nails are clean, and dusts off her water skin. When Varanis returns she is checking the feather in her crest is still black and smooth.
Varanis is gone for more than a few minutes, but when she returns, her hair is neatly combed and her eyes freshly lined with kohl. Her helmet is tucked under her arm. “Marta insisted that I put my best face forward,” she says apologetically.
Berra grins. “You look good. If we’re lucky, one of my cousins will be around.” She does not look like she is overheating yet, but she is standing in the shade, as she said she would.
The Vingan arches an eyebrow at the mention of a cousin. “Right, where are we off to? Oh, and here.” She hands over a small leather pouch.
Berra smiles. “Thank you. I’ll be able to pay you back in Sartar, but I want to bring them some gifts, and I don’t have it here.” She tucks it into her armour, already highly polished. “Just little things, for the household and people there. I asked and it’s still the same merchant.”
Varanis waves carelessly. “Of course. What’s mine, is yours.” She has a quick word with the guard at the palazzo gate. It seems the Saiciae guards have come to accept that Berra is enough protection, as there is no argument from him.
“Right. In that case, come help me spend it? It’ll be cheaper than you’re used to. And we’ll be a while.” Berra looks determined now.
Berra does, keeping to the cooler side of the street. Pretty soon, with her walking quietly and looking thoughtful, they pass Kena Hill, taking Harmony Gate and then immediately turning to the left. In the lee of the city wall itself there is a small market and a hubbub of Heortling voices. Heorttown.
Now that they are far from the palazzo and most of the prying eyes, Varanis says, “What’s up? You’re a bit out of sorts.”
“Uh?” Berra looks up at Varanis. “I… haven’t seen them for a while?”
“Are you worried?”
Berra shrugs. “I want them to… I don’t know. Yes. Let’s find some nice things for them. A lot of this looks Heortling but it’s made around here, so it’s cheaper than imports.” Change of subject.
Varanis takes a breath, poised to argue, but then she doesn’t. “What are we looking for?”
“Trimming cloth for his wife, toys for the children, anything useful for a house. Maybe a ring or two if we can find something. I didn’t get to come back last time I was here.” She sounds defensive, although it does not seem to be at Varanis. More, self-defence. She was rich last time she was here.
“This sounds like fun,” Varanis says with a grin.
“Yeah. Ten Lunars. The children are small. Wait. Bigger now. But I heard they had another, so we can always get something for Haran if I heard wrong.”
This is a small market, selling most things save unprepared food. Such bulk goods are apparently for elsewhere. Berra seems to relax as she looks around it, walks towards the nearest stall. “Oh. And it’s not all grouped. It’s mostly by tribe or clan. So we should see if there are any old Colymar.”
Varanis glances at Berra. “Minimal risk of grudges carrying this far?”
“It’ll be … probably be fine. And this is a market, anyhow. Nobody comes here looking for arguments, right?” Maybe she is too hopeful. She does seem to know that, because she sets herself to looking serious a moment later.
“We’ll keep our eyes open.” Varanis gives a wry smile. “Which we’d be doing anyway.”1Varanis rolls Bargain, and does the talking for Berra.
The general form here seems to be that one member of a tribe or clan has a table with the works of several makers. Cloth lies by bronze, neatly or otherwise. Cosmetics are piled here, over there are scrimshaw combs. Berra gets into a conversation about a famous tree in Clearwine, which turns into a bard reciting at her. For quarter of an hour. She manages to escape with a slightly glazed look, having been out-Colymared.
The tree was planted to mark the founding of a city of the Empire of Wyrms Friends, and Prince Sartar blessed it, making it young again, so that its roots would not be harmed by the walls as Brondagal Fort was expanded. In doing so, he changed it to many other forms of tree, and it has over the years grown apples, bitter oranges, and on three occasions oak leaves – each time leading to war.
Varanis soaks up the stories and before allowing Berra to pull her away, she buys herself a comb from the storyteller.
But, having been reminded of their mission, she prepares to set to bargaining for anything the Humakti shows interest in.
Berra, with some thought, picks out a decorated girdle, some bronze pins that she talks about for a while, before going back to look at them again, a stone knife with a good handle and a story attached, and a pyramid of salt. Then a rattle gourd takes her notice, and she considers it, but decides on a small amphora of wine instead. It is one of those that a larger vessel gets decanted into, and she asks Varanis to taste it.
Varanis sips the wine and smiles.2It is very good. Either there is a local place that does not supply the main Nochet markets, or it fell off the back of a wagon. She gives Berra a nod.
Berra nods too, and pays the price. “And the rest, we’ve got a bit left. Food. If they’ve only got vegetable stew in the house, they’ll want to be able to feed me.”
“Meat then? Can’t have you fading away under your geas.”
“And bread, and fruit.” Berra asks the wine-man, “Who do I go for for food?” and gets pointed to a woman with a broad face, broad chest, broad shoulders, on the other side of the market. “Esba. Tell her Imrig sent you. Tell her to give you a bag. She does grass ones.”
Berra bows. She already has a bundle of cloth, an old bit she brought with her to wrap around things, but added food will bring it to the point where she cannot easily carry things. The wine could be on the outside, but then she would be taking up two hands.
There are a few people around the market, and particularly around the storyteller, who are watching the pair. No predatory look to it – just curiosity, or mild gawping. Berra, trying to see where Esba is, has probably not seen it.
“That way,” Varanis says, nodding in the direction of the food vendor. Very softly she adds, “We’re being watched, but I don’t think there’s a threat.”
Berra takes a moment to listen to nothing, and looks around. “Mhm.” The way over to the food vendor sees her looking around rather more, back on the alert after her time spent relaxing. Esba turns out to be younger up close than she looked from far away, with greyish hair but youthful skin.
Again, Varanis lets Berra do the selecting, but she is happy to do the bargaining. She spots some stuffed rolls of the sort she became familiar with in Boldhome and buys them as Berra selects the rest.
Esba asks about how Imrig is, and nods when Berra says, “Same as when you checked, probably. He said you’d give me a bag. I’m going to see the Isran folk. Can you send along dinner for about five people? Or however many are in there? Do you know them?”
“I do, yes. Is she the Lightbringer?” Esba looks at Varanis with gossipy curiosity.
By this point, the Vingan has a mouthful of stuffed roll. She looks sheepish. “Sorry,” she mumbles, swallowing quickly. “I hadn’t broken my fast yet and the smelled so good. They taste at least as good as they smell, if not better.”
“Yes. She’s pretty good in a feast-hall, talking or not,” Berra says with a grin. Esba nods. “Well, I do those myself, but you should try the ones with poppy sprinkles and dried honey.”
Berra lets Varanis attempt an answer.
Varanis just hands over money. It’s like she hasn’t eaten in days suddenly. “They are excellent. I’d like a dozen of these and another dozen of the poppy ones, please.” She grins at Berra. “If I’m lucky, you and your cousins will leave me enough to bring some home for tomorrow.”
“I’ll send along enough for the family,” Esba says. “But cousins?”
“Sort of. Sometimes one of my cousins is there, but they’re cousins to her,” Berra replies. “I can’t eat vegetables, so maybe a leg of meat, uh… frybread and cheese, and anything else. If you provide vegetables then I need to know not to eat that.” She holds out the remaining coins she has, two Lunars and three clacks, thanks to the work Varanis put in for her, and kept carefully separate from other money so she knows what she is paying and what she is paying back.
“These remind me of Boldhome, but they are so much better,” Varanis says, obviously contemplating eating a second one.
“Of course they are. I make them.” Esba has loose-woven grass to keep the rolls wrapped up, and a rather tighter woven bag to carry the general shopping. Most of her customers probably being their own baskets, but she has a few wraps and bags for passing, unexpected trade. She even gives Berra a wooden hook to put around her fingers and then through the single eye of the amphora, and adds, “Put it through the bag handles first and you can carry them all at once.”
“I know,” Berra says. “I used to live here.”
That gets Esba smiling.
“It was lovely to meet you, Esba. If time permits, I’ll be back.”
Esba smiles, and says, “Fresh every day, but they’ll still be good on Clayday. Just keep them in a pot, and warm them at a fire to wake the crust.”
“Thank you!” Varanis turns back to Berra, who now has a lot to carry. “Let me have some of that.”
Berra holds up the bag. “Unhook it and then you can take the bottle?” she suggests. “That’s the bit that’s bulky, no matter what. And you get the carry-handle too.”
Varanis takes the hook and amphora. “Lead on, then. I’m looking forward to this.”
Berra borrows a bit of cash from Varanis, who helps spend it
- 1Varanis rolls Bargain, and does the talking for Berra.
- 2It is very good. Either there is a local place that does not supply the main Nochet markets, or it fell off the back of a wagon.